TRAVERSE CITY — Lake Ann resident David St. Aubin serves as chairman of the recently-formed Veterans Inspiring Veterans, an organization that aims to assist area veterans through projects.
“It was eight veterans that came together — all combat veterans,” said St. Aubin, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We wanted to help veterans in some way.”
The group’s first endeavor is the Veterans Inspirational Art Show, set for Sept. 28 at Casey and Dana Cowell’s home on Old Mission Peninsula.
About 35 artists display and sell more than 125 works, including paintings, pottery, woodwork and glass.
“We have just about every medium you can think of,” St. Aubin said. “It’s very, very fine art. It is unbelievable, and it’s all veterans participating.”
St. Aubin said they allowed each participant to contribute three pieces and keep all proceeds from the sales. Most artists are from Michigan, but St. Aubin said a few hail from other states.
The reception also includes a silent auction, food and live music. Judges review the pieces and give prizes to the top three. St. Aubin added that attendees can vote for their favorites, which receive a “patron award.”
St. Aubin said many veterans use art as a way to cope after their experiences in wartime, whether they saw combat or not.
“Art is a very therapeutic-type of activity that veterans use quite often to help with PTSD,” he said. “They can get lost in their art. I’m more of an outdoorsman, so I get my anxiety out in other ways.”
Jerry Gates, a U.S. Army veteran and former art teacher, said his creative streak began when he moved to northern Michigan nearly 50 years ago. However, the Acme resident said he made the most art in the last 20 years.
His art mainly feature area rivers, lakes and other landscapes. Often, he said, he takes a photograph and then recreates the scene at his home studio. His media of choice: oil pastels or powdered pastel and powdered graphite.
“Much of it deals with the environment or nature,” Gates said. “I like to do river pieces with no people in them. It’s a time for reflection and introspection — that’s what I’m trying to capture.”
Though he prefers creating larger pieces, he said bringing a few smaller, framed items to the Veterans Inspirational Art Show was more practical. This makes it easier for people to display the artwork at home.
Gates said even though he was not in direct combat, he was drawn to art as a form of expression.
“It’s fun and it’s a challenge. I exist because of and for it. It’s going to be an honor and a privilege to show with these other guys.”
St. Aubin said the interest level exceeded their expectations. They thought the event would be relatively small, but they expect more than 300 guests. He added that it “really took off” after the Cowells got involved.
Proceeds from each $100 ticket go back to the community. After the show, veterans can apply for assistance through Veterans Inspiring Veterans.
“We are going to turn around and help veterans anyway we possibly can, with things they need,” St. Aubin said. This could include setting up an event or completing a project.
Though they stopped selling tickets, St. Aubin said people can view the artwork at other venues after the show including Cowell Family Cancer Center.
He said they are working to get a few other businesses to display the works too.